Two Are Better Than One: Red Dots and Irons

Two Are Better Than One: Red Dots and Irons

Lately I have witnessed TONS of discussion online about how back up iron sights are becoming un-necessary. The story is this: Veteran notes that he has never seen a AimPoint fail in combat, and additionally cites many photos of operators in theater who have omitted the back up iron sight.

The discussions quickly turn into purse swinging scenarios such as: low light, night vision, durability, irons don’t use batteries, the battery lasts ten years who cares, better field of view, “when I was a marine”, the KD range etc. etc. If you have any number of rounds down range, then you can draw your own conclusion on the advantages and disadvantages of each. It’s fairly elementary. If I had one option I would choose a red dot, but since I am not constrained into that scenario I will carry both RDS and irons… preferably adjustable irons.

Despite the many advances in durability and all around superior performance of  red dots, the irons and RDS are much like peanut butter and jelly. They work great together.  Where one falters, the other can pick up the slack. The discussion of Irons vs Red Dot is only “won” when someone steps up and trains with both to maximize their capability as a rifleman. Let’s throw some reality down range and discuss why both should be on your kit.

AimPoints Never Fail:

That five year battery life and durability in rain, sleet, snow, and heat are going to be really impressive when your aimpoint is sitting there in the treeline of middle of nowhere after your mounting screws sheared off. AimPoints are tough, but mistakes are unforgiving. Your T2 might survive an atom bomb, but that doesn’t help you if your skeletonized mount cracked when you nailed it exiting a truck.

Mounts, screws, twisty things, Chinese metal, and hardware fall off or flat out fail *all the time*. Fact of life. The more things bolted on to a rifle means there is the potential for more things to fall off. I have seen it several times. I have seen Aimpoints loose in their 30mm rings. My own EG1’s mounting hardware has become unscrewed. My own LMT BUIS wobbling like crazy at the end of a 200+ round count stage. Having both a RDS and a BUIS gives you options. If you suddenly can’t hit your target, take out the guesswork and flip up the BUIS and keep shooting. Your red dot takes a hard hit and you are concerned about zero? Flip up the BUIS and confirm zero off the front and rear sights. It’s simple redundancy.


HSLD dummy cord anchors are a thing… Really. Yes. Really.

There is no reason not to take  that extra chance. If the world were thrust into a SHTFantasy ala “Mad Max”, within a few years everyone who has a flat top would be shooting with no accessories and no sights. Supply chains matter, and where are you going to source that screw that fell off your rail when the world is high on crazy pills? Meanwhile that A2 which looked like it rolled out for duty circa 1996 is probably still equipped with sights. I have never seen a roll pin fall out, but there is a first for everything right?

So if your Aimpoint falls off or your iron sights fall off it’s a good thing you have a second sighting system isn’t it?


“But Lothaen. I won’t have that problem. Not only will my Aimpoint never fail, it will run forever on my Duracell lithium batteries. The mount was spec’d out by Bill Geiselle / Mark Larue after a dream which Jesus Christ handed down the design parameters for a SOCOM Block III+++ approved mount. Furthermore, my fasteners are grade 8 hardware which was artisinally sourced from McMaster-Carr. I use a ceramic super locking compound developed by NASA on all the screws…  And lastly, I have a dummy cord.”

I don’t need a BUIS.

Sounds like you are squared away! So when would irons be useful to you?

You’re in your patrol car. It’s hot outside. Hot and humid. The AC was cranked and everything is your cab is cool. Suddenly a call comes in on the radio “Shots Fired” and you roll in. You unlatch your patrol carbine from the rack and exit the vehicle. Humidity is 90%. So long sight picture. Your sight just clouded over and no amount of wiping will fix it. It has to warm up for moisture to stop fogging the glass. If you had no irons that would suck. If you have irons, remove the optic, and secure the scene.

Lewis Machine and Tool LMT BUIS

A buis with rear elevation adjustment is another valuable tool. It effectively gives you the choice of two zero’s. If you are in a fixed position, and you know that a fixed point in the distance is 550 yards away, you can dial your BUIS for accurate fire at that position. It could be a suspicious building, some cover, or you can simply set your buis to take over intermediate ranges past your 200 yard RDS zero. Where the red dot leaves off, the irons can pick up the slack and vice versa. It’s simply another tool to aim and fire upon a target. Don’t leave it behind.

It’s Complimentary My Dear Watson:

Irons can break, red dots can break. Why not keep both? With carbines becoming ever lighter, the weight penalty of a good BUIS is lessened significantly. I disagree with the online arguments that a BUIS is becoming unecessary. They are simply an extra layer of capability. I suggest keeping both!


Written by lothaen


  1. Everyday Marksman · October 14, 2017


    IMO, a backup sight is relatively cheap insurance against Murphy. If it is available without disturbing the primary sight (a la short eye relief magnified optics), then there really isn’t a good reason to not have them.

  2. Mark H. · October 17, 2017

    It absolutely makes no sense NOT TO HAVE irons on a ‘fighting’ rifle…NONE. The only excuse that really works is “I (you) don’t WANT them”, for whatever reason someone might give. That junk about ‘extra’ weight is just nonsense…when it comes to BUIS’. Sure the “ounces equal punds” thing makes sense but not here. At LEAST have access to them, but even then you’re not doing yourself any favors…

  3. David Walters · October 18, 2017

    Hmmm. Let’s see.

    The U.S. and N. Korea are at loggerheads and some (even some at the CIA) say that N. Korea likely has the capability to detonate an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon over the center of the U.S. which, in addition to perhaps lead to the deaths of 90% of the American population, could destroy or degrade virtually every form of equipment operated electronically by disabling, perhaps permanently, the equipment’s computer chips.

    Power plants would cease operations as would the trucks that deliver our food as would the water purification and waste treatment plant. Starvation and disease would run rampant and in a very up-front and personal way S would definitely hit the Fan.

    Despite this and in the face of that every more probably threat some shooters and especially those considered the most sophisticated among shooters, the “operators”, seem to believe that mechanical backup devices like iron sights have no use or value, are anachronistic and shouldn’t be on their weapons?

    Fine. When SHTF I won’t have to worry about any shortage of ammunition for my rifles which sport both electronic and iron sights. It’ll be easily found next to the dead bodies of deceased “operators” who, despite their highly refined marksmanship skills, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when push came to shove.

  4. Sean Townsend · February 27, 2018

    I think one thing they forget to consider as well is optics upgrades, warranty repairs, and trial runs. There are lots of reasons other than failure that your rifle may be without an optic for a week or more. If you have backup irons that rifle is still in service. How many times have you been tempted to sell your existing optic to fund an upgrade? Do you want your rifle to be useful while you are utilizing that awesome warranty? A lot of the people saying you don’t need BUIS are those guys we all hate that have 25 tier 1 AR-15s, 10 Benelli shotguns, 50 custom 1911s, and 7 $1000 Glocks. I have one AR-15, 1 Glock. My wife has 1 AR-15, her duty Glock, and her concealed carry Glock. That’s it. Damn right they have BUIS.

  5. Jon Twichell · March 27, 2018

    Simply put, Two is one, One is none. And from this Vet… I have seen plenty of aimpoints fail. From glass broken (rare) to the knobs breaking off (more common). They are, however, very tough. For me, I’ll take both.

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